(First of all, thanks and credit to Maundy Mitchell Photography for the dandy profile pic!)
This is a metaphor/piece of advice that I’ve been giving to students, and discussing with colleagues and family members, and trying to take myself, for the past several years. A couple of people have mentioned it to me in recent weeks, so I thought I’d post it here.
When you’re working to complete a degree, you’re trying to fill three buckets:
-- the “degree requirements” bucket – What do I need to do to finish this bleeping degree?
-- the “life’s work” bucket – What do I feel passionate about doing with my life – what’s my calling, my vocation – and what do I need to do to pursue that?
-- the “making a living” bucket – What do I need to do to earn money after I’ve finished my degree and while I’m pursuing my life’s work?
If you’ve planned carefully and know yourself well, or if you’re extremely fortunate, the things that you’re doing to fill the first bucket will also spill over and help fill the second and third buckets. BUT, it’s a mistake to expect and assume that working to fill only one of the buckets will somehow fill the other two. The sooner and more actively you work on putting stuff into all three buckets, the fuller each bucket will be.
I could carry this metaphor in a number of directions – for example, I could go on at length about the pressure colleges and universities are under to pretend that the second bucket doesn’t exist, and to concentrate on filling the third bucket to the exclusion of everything else. However, I’ll close for now by pointing out that, once we’ve completed all the degrees we intend to complete (and that number might be zero!), we’re left with two buckets. My goal these days is to keep myself honest about putting stuff in both buckets, and not confusing one with the other.